Friday, September 20, 2013

Americas Cup 8-2 - Leadership & Taking Risks?

Swallowing hard on my porridge this morning, I watched Dean Barker in the pre-race start take a huge risk- using an aggressive tactic, which unfortunately his competitors noted and fought back to win the start, and eventually the race this morning.  We all thought Team NZ was going to take it out....but our breath continues to be held until the next race....tomorrow.
Oracle won race 12 to make it 8-2 in the regatta. Photo / Brett Phibbs

As I travelled into work, I pondered the Team NZ tactic and aggressive nature of the start and quietly contemplated the area of aggressive leadership tactics and risk management in business.

I have always solidly believed that business is all about risk and tactic.  If you don't take the risks, you will never experience the brilliant rewards, or the epic fails that see you learn from your mistakes.

I once listened to an inspiring business leader some 10 years ago and I will never forget his comments.  He said- there are 3 types of people out there you need to be aware of:-

People who make it happen
People who watch it happen
and  the People who wondered what happened

So I tried to work out which category Team NZ were in this morning and I was stumped.  OK so we didn't make it happen in terms of a win, but we did make Oracle play a card we wanted to see at the start line so technically we did.  Just like business, how can we put pressure on our competitors to show us one or more of their cards in a process, or for that matter get more information out of our potential customers or prospects?  Sometimes we have to give a little in the process to get an end gain.  As leaders we have to remember this- sometimes its all about the strategy.  I do think we made it happen today...its not all about the winning.

I then tried to look at the second category of people, those who watch it happen.  Yes, Team NZ certainly had to watch it happen, but we were not sitting back, we were fighting and we were watching the result of our risky pre-race start aggressive tactic unfold before us.  We had no choice but to watch it happen.  Business is simply no different, we must take the time to reflect as leaders on what is happening around us.  We must watch things play out in order to understand our next move.  The curve balls I have been thrown over the years have been astounding, some unbelievable.  I have been double crossed, ripped off and trumped, however these experiences have taught me what I know today and I am now able to more clearly see these happening...with my eyes wide open.  If I now make a decision and take a risk and it may not have been the best risk, I take full ownership for my actions, like Dean, I contemplate what happened and watch the scenario unfold, all of the time looking ahead at my next move.  Leaders need to absorb the pain sometimes and not inflict it.  Dean- watching today must have been hard and I am sure you absorbed the pain but I applaud you for taking that aggressive risk.  Sometimes its about the journey not the destination.

So then I thought about the third category of people- people who wondered what happened.  Yes, Team New Zealand probably did wonder what happened, but actually I think they already knew.  We all know, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward....or failure.  If we don't take risks, we will never know what it feels like to experience massive reward.  I recently put one of my team who does not like public speaking in front of an audience of hundreds of people.  The risk was large as his fear of speaking of over 20 years ever so present.  He started in a shaky way, but ended brilliantly.  He felt so good at the end, the risks were well worth the reward.  Sure I had pushed, but to see his self-satisfaction was everything.  No, Team New Zealand  did not just wonder what happened to them.  They knew.  They took a risk and it simply did not pay off this time.  But the risk was calculated as losing 1 race does not mean we cannot win the next....and now Oracle have had to play out another card so we can view it.

I then reflected myself in a final comment that has stayed with me about people from this Leadership Masterclass.  The comment was:

Two types of searchers40% of people have the way and the will,
20% have the way,
20% have the will
and 20% have neither. 

I so believe this is true in business also- as a leader I have learnt to recognise over the years that taking a tactic like Oracle did by Spithill switching  veteran tactician and San Francisco Bay Area native John Kostecki with young Benny Ainslee, the newly knighted Brit and four time Olympic gold medal winner was a bold move and one that is clearly paying off for them.  Again a huge risk to take, but fascinating to see the strategies unfolding and the results of these moves.

I truly believe that a team needs to be dynamic and a mix of different people, but that 20% that don't have the will or the way, you must deal with these issues as fast as you can as this will bring the whole team down. 

I challenge all leaders out there reflect on the Americas Cup, take a good look at the leaders and their moves and have a close look at your own leadership.  Are you taking the risks that you need?

Sit back and enjoy the race or to, and come on Team New Zealand- lets bring home the cup!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Microsoft TechEd - 3 Day Wrist Bands - shame on you!

Who wants to wear a bright blue wrist-band for 3 days advertising ACE training and Microsoft TechEd- in the shower, to the gym, to work and of course, to TechEd?  The lovely people who provided them did however tell the team that "Its waterproof though, so there's no issue in the shower!"

This makes for a romantic night for some, just imagine....candle-light, romantic dinner, you reach over to tenderly stroke your partners face....or.....foot...or........with the edge of your TechEd wrist band.   

It was then pointed out to me that it is a conference for geeks and the possibility of most attendees having partners is probably fairly low so this may not really be an issue.

On the other hand however, I also have visions of that dangly tail making things awfully awkward with toilet paper in the bathroom....I shudder to think, nor have updates from the team of what has actually eventuated.  On this comment, one of the team did rightly point out that it is waterproof so really, its not  really an issue.

The waterproof aspect has also added Geek ingenuity around the office, this time in the form of using the dangly tail as a coffee stirrer, however I do caution receiving coffee from these wrist band wearing people, particularly if they had any issues with my point above.

Seriously, I do like Microsoft and we even use Ace Training occasionally, but the line has to be drawn somewhere Microsoft and this time, its been crossed. Our love of all things Geek also has a line and this time its been crossed.  If you've ever wondered what its like to be under house arrest and wear and ankle bracelet- its very similar to the TechEd bracelet, but apparently minus the tracking device.....or is it??

Can't wait until next year, rumour has it RFID style Microchips are going to be implanted in your wrist and you simply have to walk through the scanners WITHOUT the bracelet, however the Geeks in our office reckon GPS trackers might be more what Microsoft are after, given the fact everyone will know where you are going or have come from by sighting your bracelet!!

Enjoy your new fashion accessory TechEd goers, and please post pictures back with comments of other awkward situations your 3-day bracelets have got you into!